At some point, it’s important to admit you’ve been an idiot.
The horrendous snow conditions in the Cascade Mountains have kept me off nordic skis this winter, sitting at home in the valley’s soup of stagnated air whining about the lack of powder at mountain Sno-Parks.
This, of course, was stupid (and a little petulant.)
Because while snow conditions might not be ideal this season — quite possibly the worst in 60 years — Mount Hood Meadows Nordic Center has been grooming trails among forest, meadows and waterfalls since Thanksgiving.
The cost to glide is $15 per day (or $12 from noon to 4 p.m.), but that’s the price you pay for bright sunshine and fast, rolling terrain on the resort’s 15 kilometers of beginner to expert loops.
Meadows has thrown the might of its grooming fleet into collecting snow and spreading it across the trails this winter, creating a reliable place to ski while Mother Nature brings Oregon little but dry air.
“We’ve been in the business of snow farming this winter,” said Dale Peters, Nordic center manager at Mount Hood Meadows. “We’ve been able to blade snow together from the parking lot, create small mountains of snow and use grooming equipment to smear it out to create a good surface.
“The staff is out every day with shovels and rakes making sure we smooth over rough edges to keep it as optimal as possible. Even with the limited (snow), we’ve had excellent skiing conditions.”
The work has paid off. When I arrived at the Nordic center last week, the trails were as smooth as Peters promised.
We skied two easy routes — a meadow with Mount Hood looming overhead and a trail to 40-foot Sahalie Falls — before heading onto the moderate level loops on Raven Way, Hanel and Beargrass Loop.
The white cone of Mount Hood played peak-a-boo through the trees as I dropped down dips and around corners, enjoying that unique thrill of Nordic skiing that combines scenery, exploration and speed.
Along the way, I met Sam Cordell, a former member of the U.S. Biathlon team who now works as the director of slope maintenance of Mount Hood Meadows.
He pointed out that skiing at places like Meadows — as opposed to Sno-Parks on mountain passes — offers consistency and better conditions for beginners and children.
“I spent a lot of time skiing in the backcounty and touring when I was younger, and conditions are extremely variable — you never know what you’re going to get,” Cordell said. “With the groomed trails up here, you have a real consistent product.”
“The grooming also caters to people coming up with a family. It’s a much better way to get youngsters on skis.”
In a sense, the Nordic center is about making it as easy as possible to get people on the snow. Along with offering rental skis, boots and poles, they also feature lessons for everyone from children to first-time adults.
“We really specialize in families,” Peters said. “We accommodate everybody’s size, skill and interest. We can develop skiers from 3 years on up.”
As if to prove the point, Cordell’s 10-year-old son, Max, explained what keeps him on cross county skis.
“It’s really fun to explore new areas, and on skis it’s so fun because you get to go fast,” Max said.
It would be difficult to sum it up better than that. It was a reminder, at least to me, that even when snow conditions in Oregon are ugly, it’s still worth making the drive to Mount Hood.
After all, spending time exploring the forest and speeding down trails beats sitting at home whining about the lack of snow.